The South Island of New Zealand is probably what you imagine when you think of NZ. If you have a short amount of time (under two weeks) to travel this is probably where you will go. It has some beaches, although not as breathtaking as the North’s; mountains, major cities, and everything in between. The rolling green hills and volcanic views of the North Island are exchanged for mountains and alpine landscapes on the South Island.
We took the ferry over from Wellington to Picton. It was about a three-hour scenic ride across the Cook Strait. The ferry reminded me of the one from Ireland to England – even featuring a movie theater. I was reunited with some of my travel buddies at the ferry and met the new group.
After a couple of pitstops, our final destination for the night was Marahau. On the way there we stopped in Picton and Nelson. Nelson is a beautiful costal town known for its sunshine and chill vibes. If I did the route again I would have stopped by for a night in Nelson. This area is part of the Marlborough vineyard region so naturally we stopped for a wine tasting. For $5 we tried 4-5 wines and then if we bought any there was a $5 discount – so as our driver stated, “it was like making money.” My favorite wine at the tasting was surprisingly for me a Sauvignon Blanc.
After the wine tasting we continued on to Marahau. This is a remote little town on the edge of Abel Tasman National Park. Marahau was so remote that there was no cell phone reception and really poor Wi-Fi. For the first night’s dinner we cooked as a group and with the lack of cell service everyone was hanging out, playing card games, sitting by the fire, etc. It was a lovely evening and a great way to kick off the South Island adventure.
The next morning we split off into our activities. There was the option to kayak, canyoning, skydiving, or sailing. I was so close to going canyoning and after hearing everyone’s experience it’s on my list for when I get back to New Zealand. I spent my day sailing through the park on a catamaran and then hiking back. We were told we lucked out on the weather and that the day before was unbearably windy. The crystal clear water and views throughout the cruise were stunning. We even saw some wild seals in their natural habitat. The majority of the passengers on the catamaran were fellow Stray travelers so again it was a fun time getting to know each other. After the cruise our group had lunch on the beach and just hung out for a bit before embarking on the hike back. It was honestly the perfect day. Marahau and/or the surrounding town of would definitely be somewhere I could have spent more time in as well (I’m sensing a pattern here). If we are keeping a running list of where I would stay longer on the South Island so far it includes Nelson and Marahau.
Accommodation – The Barn
We were in a remote area, but the accommodation was really nice. There were a block of cabins with six single beds (no bunks yay), a great kitchen/dining area, outdoor space, and even a movie room. Obviously, the best part was that the property really was steps away from the Abel Tasman and this was as close as you could stay. I highly recommend this stop and would gladly stay here again.
I randomly bumped into two people I had separated with right before Christmas, which was a pleasant surprise. They had hopped off here because they fell in love with the area and I totally see why.